Animals, the starving global population, the planet. Do you care about at least one of these things?
I am hoping that you do; if not, then maybe you’re just a terrible person. You’re going to be surprised, but as usual I am trying to convince you that at least one of these three things is worth cutting down your meat consumption for! How original! And genuinely, it feels like that; like being a record stuck on repeat. Hearing “oh yeah that’s terrible – that percentage of the world population starving? Disgusting! That many animals abused before slaughter? Who knew? Meat production contributes HOW much to CO² emissions?” is not uncommon. But action needs to happen - you can’t be telling me how saddening these facts are to hear between bites of your bacon sarnie. Put the sandwich down, and listen.
In my opinion the first and largest hurdle in the bid to turn people veggie is pride. “Guilt is wasteful, pride is childish” – a great lyric in a Ben Howard song, (also a big tune check it out here). Everyone hates being told that they’re doing something wrong. I felt exactly the same when people around me started discussing meat eating, convincing myself that people were overreacting. But, at the end of the day, Ben Howard is right – pride is childish. It’s what possesses the President of the United States to send drone strikes, the refusal to accept a job offer you were once rejected from, and for people to not question their meat-eating habits.
The second obstacle is the notion “but what difference will me going vegetarian even make? I’m just one person”. This can seem daunting but we can’t let our self-given insignificance get us down - you can make a difference! By buying less meat, you, single handedly, are decreasing the demand in the industry, and thus less will be produced. Even better than that you can encourage those around you to try eating less meat too! Maybe you cook them your favourite vegetarian dish, introduce them to meat substitutes or even just mention it over a cuppa. Spreading the word is the best thing you can do. Like I said, I was a meat eater through and through. It wasn’t until I came to uni and I befriended 2 delightful vegans along with being surrounded by many other vegetarian friends that I was swayed. One of the key turning points was Christmas. I had gathered 7 of my friends together for a meal; and had bought 25 pigs in blankets and a turkey meant to serve 3-4 people. It was at the meal that I realised 6 of them were veggie. I had turkey sandwiches for the rest of the week.
There is one argument that always gets to me - "but if we aren't meant to eat meat, why are we so evolved to do it?". And you're right, we are so evolved for it to be easy for us to eat meat; we have disposable thumbs, can use tools and have the largest brains. We also know how to harm innocent people, shoot guns, launch nuclear missiles, and therefore, by this logic, we should do these things to! This kind of argument demonstrates that some people maybe aren't as evolved in the areas of common sense and decency. Just because you can do something, such as eating meat, doesn't mean that it's right and you should do - just in the same way that littering is wrong.
Since I have turned vegetarian, so have a few people around me, including my flatmate and boyfriend. The most impressive of all was my parents, my dad especially. This is astounding from a middle-aged, set-in-his-ways (sorry Pa), no-nonsense man who was brought up in freezing Bolton on meat pies. Only last week a good friend sent me a snapchat of her mum trying a quorn chicken nugget for the first time in disbelief that it wasn't the real deal! Just as it becomes easier for people to come out following your own leaving the closet, it becomes easier for people you know to become vegetarian after you do, especially if you’re the first in your family or friendship group. Be the one, take the plunge.
In an ideal world we would all go vegetarian, and potentially vegan, until the industry becomes fully sustainable. But, if you're not ready to go cold-turkey (hehe) straight away, consider setting one or two days a week where you treat yourself to a meat meal. Personally, if it were me, I would check out the 'spoons menu and choose my favourite club deal day (https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/clubs).
Big reveal No.1 : you are going to slip up, and that’s ok! No one gets it perfect all the time, and that’s totally understandable. I will admit, last month I went out in Manchester and on the way home we stopped off at McDonalds. In my intoxicated state my usual cravings were heightened – I ordered 9 chicken nuggets, which I happily dipped in bbq sauce and stuffed in my face. The difference after you’ve realised the array of benefits of eating less meat is that the usual regret you feel in the morning, waking up next to the remnants of a doner kebab, is worse than the bad taste in your mouth. This time, it’s not the garlic mayo, it’s your morals.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain the reasons why eating less meat is so beneficial and I don’t want to patronise you so here are just a few:
- In 2006, the UN calculated that the combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were about 18% of the global total – more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
- If the grain fed to animals in western countries were consumed directly by people instead of animals, we could feed at least twice as many people. Currently 45% of children who die before reaching the age of 5 die due to starvation or malnutrition.
- 30% of the planet’s land is used in livestock farming. This has a knock-on effect on biodiversity and land available for other, greener uses such as biofuels.
- In 2013, more than 131,000 tons of antibiotics were used in food animals worldwide; by 2030, it will be more than 200,000 tons. This will increase the rate at which bacteria mutate to become antibiotic-resistant, potentially resulting in a ‘superbug’ which could threaten the human race or other species.
- Consuming lots of red meat can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
To calculate your own water, energy and fat-intake savings per meat-free meal visit https://www.worldmeatfreeweek.com/#calculator